SCOTRAIL has backed the creation of an independent ombudsman to settle unresolved complaints, after passengers formally criticised its service 60 times a day last year.

The new watchdog, which is expected to begin work early in 2018, will have the power to make UK train operators take action to end long-running disputes with customers.

Currently, if rail passengers are unhappy with how complaints are handled they can ask Transport Focus or London TravelWatch to investigate, but the organisations, which dealt with 4133 appeals in 2016/17, lack the power to enforce any recommendations.

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Rail minister Paul Maynard said: “After discussions with rail industry leaders I am delighted to see they are taking this vital step, which will help ensure passengers get a fair deal.

"I want passengers to have a stronger voice. The way to achieve this is to set up an independent and binding process to resolve complaints."

Figures from the Office of Road and Rail show ScotRail, which was taken over by Dutch operator Abellio in 2015, received 24 complaints per 100,000 journeys in 2016/17.

Based on 93.2m trips, this was equivalent to some 22,000 complaints, or 61 per day.

In the year before Abellio replaced First Group as the franchise holder, the complaint rate was 23.7 per 100,000, but this rose to 26.5 in Abellio’s first year, before dropping to 24.

London Underground had 2.2 complaints per 100,000 last year and Virgin West Coast 154.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We strive to do our very best for every one of our customers. “However sometimes things do go wrong and people feel that they have to raise issues or make complaints. An independent body to look into theses and make recommendations to us on how we constantly improve is something we would, on the face of it, support.”

Alex Hayman, of the consumer group Which?, said: "Thousands of rail passengers feel let down and ignored by train providers when things go wrong, so it's no surprise that consumer trust remains stubbornly low in this industry.

"Government must introduce an ombudsman that all operators must join. Only then will they begin to restore trust and ensure that passengers get a much better standard of service."

Jacqueline Starr, of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, added: “A fair, friendly, strong and independent appeals service will help rail companies learn lessons as they continue to invest to better connect the country."